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‘Oldest altar boy’ honored by parish with papal blessing

05 9.28.17_MHR2017_Carlos' Papal Honor-3 PAGEMost Holy Redeemer pastor Father Matt Link presents the papal blessing to Carlos Rodriguez. (Photo by Dennis Callahan/Catholic San Francisco)

September 28, 2017 Valerie Schmalz

His pastor and many of the parishioners at Most Holy Redeemer Parish refer fondly to 84-year-old Carlos Rodriguez as the “world’s oldest altar boy” although there are no statistics kept on the oldest person serving at Mass.

“He’s here seven days a week. Every day he faithfully opens up the church,” said pastor Father Matt Link, a priest of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. “He is my daily sacristan. I’m grateful for him.”

In the parish, “They lovingly refer to Carlos as the world’s oldest altar boy. He just smiles. It’s very sweet, very endearing. He’s faithful, he’s loving, he’s kind and he is present. He is so present,” the pastor said.

“I’ve always considered it a privilege,” said Rodriguez. “I am very happy to do it.”

“You can’t help fall in love with this person,” said parishioner Dennis Callahan, “so kind for years upon years.”

On Sept. 1, the parish’s staff and daily Mass group decided to surprise Rodriguez at the 8 a.m. Mass and presented him with a papal blessing, specially requested by the parish. “He was totally surprised, kind of blown away,” recalled Father Link, who told Rodriguez, “I am grateful for the blessing that is you and I see that Pope Francis agrees with me.”

Rodriguez happened into his role as an altar server when he joined the parish in 1982, when the pastor was Father Anthony Maguire, who just recently retired as pastor of St. Matthew Parish. “Father Maguire was the reason I came to Most Holy Redeemer,” said Rodriguez, who also remembers the other priests of the time with affection including now-Reno, Nevada, Bishop Randy Calvo. “I was going around church hopping to different parishes and then finally came to Father Maguire at Most Holy Redeemer. I was very impressed.”

“Way back then, they didn’t have a regular group of altar servers,” Rodriguez recalled, but another parishioner happened to be a classmate from Sacred Heart Grammar School, the now-closed Catholic elementary school on Fillmore Street. “He saw me attending Mass; he asked Father Maguire if I could be one of the altar servers.”

A native San Franciscan, Rodriguez joined the Air Force in 1951 during the Korean War, two weeks after graduating from Sacred Heart High School. He went to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and then was sent for three and a half years to Hawaii, which was still a territory so counted as overseas, he said. Upon his return, Rodriguez worked for Wells Fargo Bank, retiring after 34-and-a-half years.

“I’ve always been an early bird,” Rodriguez said, and he has been attending the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass since 1982. “I retired in 1995 and started going to church every day.”

“When I was working at Wells Fargo downtown, I used to go to St. Patrick to stop by for a visit,” said Rodriguez. “I’ve always enjoyed to either make a visit or go to the Mass. Then, when I retired I decided I would like to do it every day.”

“He’s been driving the same car since 1962,” Father Link said. “A Chevrolet Corvair he drove off the lot in 1962. He drives that car to Mass every single day. It’s in perfect shape. It shines almost like the day he drove it off the showroom floor.”

Rodriguez is “a faithful loving presence every day. I count on it. I count on his presence and I also count on his prayers,” Father Link said.

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